The thermometer and news everywhere in the city told us that it was double-digit below zero. Still, I needed groceries, and I had an infant and a toddler to bring with me wherever I went. As I pulled into the nearly-empty parking lot of the grocery store, powdery snow fell against the dark afternoon sky, giving the impression of oppressive fog.
Our breaths materialized in the air and our noses filled with tiny icicle crystals as all moisture froze. My one thought was the safe warmth of the fluorescent lights ahead. As I lunged forward, urging my little girl to walk quickly, I felt a tremendous jolt to my right hip as the snow-covered car parked next to ours pulled out suddenly and rammed into my side. I screamed as I realized my little girl had disappeared under the now-still car to the right. Miraculously, her little mittened hand still gripped mine, even as my arm was maximally extended and squeezed between my body and the car’s bumper.
My right arm remained stretched as I instinctively pushed my baby into my chest securely with my left arm and bent to pull my precious child from under the car. She was unharmed, but dazed. Her pink and aqua coat was covered in shades of crumbling gray and black slush, her cheeks were flushed and wet, but she had fallen just next to the car’s left rear tire, missed by mere inches. Relief surged. But even in that traumatic moment, I felt a clock ticking to get the girls indoors. The frigid air was relentless, my ears, cheeks and forehead burning a warning to move inside.
My thoughts raced, torn between by my fury and indignation and the practical need to secure safety.
Before I could sort these thoughts in a brutally cold moment, someone stepped in, an instant later. He was an older man. I remember nothing about him beside that. He severely ordered me; “Get the kids inside! I’ll deal with this!” His gentle but firm hand pressed my arm confidently, urging me forward.
I submitted as he took control. As we trotted the short length to the automatically opening door, I glimpsed back to see him in a heated exchange with the driver, a young man who stood hunched over, not making eye-contact. The young man was cowering as the grandfatherly man was scolding him severely and authoritatively. He had apparently seen the whole thing and had come to the rescue.
I stood 10 yards into the store, breathing heavily, clutching both of my girls with inexpressible gratitude to God. We melted in the warmth as I sobbed and placed the girls in the cart. As I brushed slush and filth from my toddler, I remember thinking how terrible it all was, what could have happened. Everyone around us milled about, unaware. I could hardly shop. I grabbed a few items and hurried home, hyper-vigilant and afraid that every car could kill us as we rushed to our parked van.
I believe he was sent by God to be our knight in shining armor.
For years we have been encouraged to commit trendy “random acts of kindness.” I’m a big fan of all kindness, be it in the form of paying for someone’s coffee at the drive-thru or letting someone go ahead of you in grocery store lines. Those forms of kindness change people’s days, and case-by-case, they combat the familiar “dog eat dog” attitude that can sometimes prevail, leaving us feeling very alone in this world. Such kindness is important and reminds us that someone cares. Actually, it's the minimum asked of us as Christians.
There is a kindness that arises from who a person is, rather than what a person does. It’s sacrificial and steadfast.
“Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.”
–2 Peter 1:5-7
- moral excellence (or “virtue” in the NKJ translation)
- knowledge ("Godly knowledge")
- brotherly kindness
Kindness always manifests with other fruit of the spirit.
The word kindness actually is written with two different Greek words in these two passages. In the first passage from 2 Peter 1 (seen above), brotherly love is from the Greek word philadelphia (fil-ad-el-fee’-ah) and translates to mean brotherly love, love of Christian brethren. Here, brotherly kindness actually means a love that is uniquely Christian, a love that stands out in its commitment, a kindness that is expected in Christian community. When shown, it’s an extension of the standards of that community and its leader, Jesus Christ.
In the Galatians 5 passage, kindness is translated from the Greek word chréstotés (khray-stot’-ace) which means goodness, benignity, uprightness, kindness, gentleness. It’s several traits wrapped up in one, and that character trait manifests in our behaviors being good, harmless, upright, kind. The dictionary definition of kind says, “having or showing a friendly, generous, and considerate nature.” It adds friendly and generous to the attributes. Frequently, all of these wonderful traits can’t be separated. They are built into our character simultaneously as we grow to be more like our model, Jesus, in our natures.
The passage in 2 Peter 1 continues in verses 8-11, explaining this process;
”For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.”
- These qualities will continue to grow in you
- They will render you fruitful in knowing Jesus
- They will keep you humble and grateful because of your salvation
- They will give you confidence and purpose in your calling
- If you do these things you will never stumble!
- They establish a place for you in His eternal kingdom.
Wow. That you will never stumble part is key (verse 10). What a promise! That’s what character is. Character is defined as ‘the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.” It’s who you are, not just what you do. So then, when hard times come, and the harsh winds blow, you stand. You don’t act differently than you have been acting up until that point. You are who you are, and your behave accordingly. You don't lapse into ungodly behavior when the going gets tough. It all starts with faith, and ends with faith because we have learned, deep down, that God's ways work.
Ephesians 6:13 talks about it as “putting on the full armor of God.” It says, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” This is another way of saying you will never stumble. The implication is that standing is the result of seasons of working diligently to practice these traits listed by Peter, and also by Paul in Galatians. The full armor of God includes other pieces of armor, but the fruit of the spirit are intricate in all of its parts.
Putting on God’s full armor is also a slow and steady process that we undertake over time.
Our ultimate example is our wonderful God. Jeremiah 31:3 says of Him; “The Lord appeared to me in a faraway place and said, ‘I love you with an everlasting love. So I will continue to show you my kindness.’” God’s kindness comes from His love. So should ours.
Many moments in our lives we are challenged. Will we be patient, or rushed? Gentle or harsh? Kind or indifferent and self-concerned? Today is the day that we choose what direction we will take: to follow Christ’s example, or not. It’s never appropriate for a Christian to say “I’m just not patient.” Scripture tells us to be patient, so we should be patient and make no excuses. Every time we choose and act right, we contribute to the cementing process. We move from acting in a certain way to becoming that way.
Diligence is saying “Wow! Look! Here’s an opportunity to show Christ’s love! Yahoo, yippee and yay!” and following through.
We can then go to the list in 2 Peter 1 of all of the promises that come as a result of our obedience and following through to the best of our ability. It’s a win-win, every time. The sacrifice we may have incurred pales when compared to the fruit for God’s Kingdom.
I want to be the kind-old-man type of person. The good news is that Scripture gives us the instructions on how to become that person. If we start now, somewhere along the way our seasons of diligent practice will be used by the Holy Spirit to change us. Then, when a young woman in distress, with two babies in the sub-zero howling winds of a icy parking lot needs you, you will be there. You won’t notice your freezing ears under your cap, or your crystalizing eyelashes and icy, visible breath. Instead, you’ll be their hero for that day, because that’s who you are. Those are the times that God really smiles, so proud of us, because we were faithful, and He could count on us to be Jesus in a hard time and place.